How Business Success and Sustainability Go Hand-in-Hand in Agriculture

by Shannon Hauf
Jul 29, 2021 9:05 AM ET
Blog

Each day, I have the privilege and joy of partnering with farmers, whose hard work and crop yields feed the world – helping to develop and provide them with strategic and technical solutions in seed production. And as Bayer strives to provide farmers with the highest quality seeds, we’re also driving sustainable growth for our seeds business.

Today’s farmers face a unique set of challenges of growing more while using less. They continue to adopt sustainable farming practices, using advanced tools and technologies to feed a growing population. Sustainable practices are important in agriculture, from farmers who grow the crops to companies like Bayer who are committed to sustainable operations.

At Bayer, we’ve made a commitment to achieve carbon-neutrality by 2030 – but on a global scale, the road to achieving a carbon-neutral world will be long. This journey, which is already starting to pay dividends along the way, will be advanced by millions of small accomplishments, which we all can contribute to.

Our goal at Bayer is to build a more sustainable future for – and through – agriculture. This requires a focus on making our own operations sustainable, while also supporting farmers as they advance sustainability in their own operations through new innovations. It all starts with using less, reducing emissions and building sustainable partnerships. 

Sustainability & Profitability

When farmers think about “sustainability,” they’re thinking about how their farm will continue to stay in business, because after all, farmers have the most to lose if they don’t implement sustainable practices in their operations. But the beautiful fact is that environmental sustainability and financial sustainability for farms of all sizes can complement and build off one another. By taking measures to improve the health of their soil and achieve savings on fuel, farmers can help clean up local environments and reduce their carbon footprints while driving their yields higher.

And for companies large and small, the link between sustainable agricultural practices and profitability is strong. Companies that incorporate strong Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles into their operations drive stronger business results. According to a 2018 report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, firms with a stronger ESG record than their competitors delivered higher three-year returns. 

These businesses are driving long-term growth by incorporating sustainable innovations that mitigate environmental risks and ensure a positive impact on the planet. In other words, sustainability and profitability go hand-in-hand.

Profitability is also essential for businesses to reinvest in sustainability initiatives and further innovation to drive efficiency.

What Bayer is Doing

To meet our pledge to be carbon-neutral by 2030 and satisfy shared Science Based Target Initiatives through 2029, we’re making advancements where they’ll have the greatest impact. Our Crop Science division is the largest contributor to Bayer’s carbon emissions. We’re laser focused on reducing or reversing this impact, because once we do, we can change everything – for the company, our partners and the planet.

Bayer’s sustainability approach is based on three pillars:

1. Optimizing our resource use to accomplish more with less.

At our current rate, the world will require 40% more water than is available by 2030. And today, agriculture accounts for more than half of all freshwater usage. With automated irrigation systems, we’ve been able to conserve 60% more water compared to traditional methods. Additionally, an increasing number of our research farms are reclaiming and recycling water. In fact, two Bayer facilities in Hawaii reuse an incredible 71 million liters (18.8 million gallons) per day.

Roughly half of Bayer’s entire footprint stems from the energy we use for electricity, cooling and steaming. From simple steps like reducing steam usage at our facility in Dormagen, Germany to larger initiatives like designing entirely resource-efficient facilities, we’re continuously finding ways to fuel innovation with only a fraction of the energy. And when we purchase additional power from providers, we’ve pledged to buy 100% of our energy from renewable sources.

2. Reducing our greenhouse gas emissions to minimize our carbon footprint.

Agriculture today generates about 25% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions due to land-use change alone. Through GPS tracking, blockchain and data analytics, our Transportation Management System ensures that shipments arrive exactly when and where they’re needed. Streamlined routes and delivery schedules cut fuel consumption, reduce emissions and enable farmers to make the most of their season.

Having reversed emissions across 1 million acres of our own test farms, Bayer developed a carbon incentive program to help millions of other farmers earn additional income for doing the same in their fields. The result is a growing global network of farms generating revenue for their contributions to a carbon-zero future.

3. Building strategic partnerships to ensure a sustainable value chain.

Working with experts of all kinds, we’ve outlined aggressive climate goals and clear benchmarks to measure our progress. Through our Science Based Target Initiatives, we’re helping our partners take the necessary steps to help limit global warming. For Bayer, this means reducing our absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 42% compared to 2019. It also means cutting our direct supply chain emissions by more than 10% in the next ten years.

In our seed production operations, we partner closely with farmers to implement sustainable practices through field production guides, where we provide prescriptions that support sustainable farming and balance inputs while driving yields higher. This prescriptive approach enables us to reduce our footprint while meeting the growing needs of our business around the world.

To help organizations collaborate with those who share their sustainability goals, we co-founded Together for Sustainability. As a team, we’re working across industries to build greener supply chains around the world.

We’re proud at Bayer to be leading the global charge on sustainability. Through our continued success as a company, and through the successes of our many partners in the effort to curb carbon emissions, we’ve demonstrated that sustainability and profit are not exclusive of one another, but rather go together. It’s our hope that all businesses around the world see the clear benefits of acting as stewards of the Earth.